Painting the Canadian landscape as home

I have been asking myself about what home means. The answer may or may not be surprising to you. When does a landscape become more like home than nearby dwellings and their inhabitants? My conclusion is that the landscape, along with the seasons that influence it, help us organize our daily rural life. This is when “home” is expressed most clearly by the land, water and sky. The landscape is my first home. Dwellings and their inhabitants must fit within the expanse. Let’s unpack what I mean by this through the painting process of two recent landscapes.

The first is a Mayne Island landscape and starts with this “Mount Parke Trail study”  10 x 8 inch oil on canvas

Mount Parke Trail study 10 x 8 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2014_09_19 006

I was looking for the tension in the landscape and wondering if it would be enough to hold it together on a larger canvas. The conclusion was that it would so a 30 x 24 inch canvas was set up and the work began.

work in progress 1 Trail along the Ridge 30 x 24 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2014_10_21 090

With the study for reference, it was during the beginnings of this painting process that I began to dwell on the fact that I was more at home within our natural landscape than anywhere else.

work in progress 2 Trail along the Ridge 30 x 24 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2014_10_21 092

I didn’t have a satisfactory answer at the time but it was the puzzle I was working through as I continued to shape the scene.

work in progress 3 Trail along the Ridge 30 x 24 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2014_10_21 129

The finished painting TRAIL ALONG THE RIDGE 30 x 24 inch oil on canvas has been released today on my website Canadian Contemporary Artist Terrill Welch and can be viewed HERE.

The second painting is from my childhood home and where my parents are still living on the Stuart River.

I pulled a face even in the very beginning as you can see in this photograph taken by photographer Josette DeBattista in my home studio.

Terrill Welch pulling a face in the Studio by Josette DeBattista

It is not the landscape itself I find challenging. The work started out in the familiar process of a light yellow ground to keep the later greens lively and a few quick lines for reference.

the beginning of Stuart River Kicking Leaves by Canadian landscape painter Terrill Welch 2014_11_22 043

Yet, I was overwhelmed with memories that crowded the physical elements I was meaning to render. I went outside and looked in to see if that would help to sort things out.

reflections of self by Terrill Welch 2014_11_22 048

But it didn’t really as photographer Josette DeBattista aptly captures through my concentration…


But the photographer leaves and I move the painting back up into the loft studio to keep working.

Stuart River Kicking leaves in progress 2 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2014_11_23 001

The painting is starting to shape.

Stuart River Kicking Leanves in progress 2 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2014_11_23 007

But I stop with nothing more than the rough shapes on the canvas.

Stuart River kicking leaves in progress 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2014_11_23 012

My notes for the day are as follows:

The difficulty is with the overlapping shifting of time through memories and my latest experience of this place along the river. Nothing seems to want to stay fixed long enough in my mind to complete a singular reference point. I stopped work on it at this early stage today and went for a long walk. Tomorrow I will begin again. I have decided to allow, partially because I seem to be unable to do otherwise, the layering of experience to this one specific landscape. The time frame spans about 44 years – not everyday after the first five years but at least a few times a year. This is part of the issue I believe. I have made up this scene in my mind during my absences so that it competes successfully with my physical visits. I seem not to want to paint either but some blend of the two. So, if in the end I can get something to work we may have a painting. We will just have to wait and see.

The next day it is so dark because of heavy rain I had to quit painting because I didn’t even have enough light with the daylight lamp. But shiny, wet and still incomplete and much farther along it seems…

Stuart River kicking leave in progress 2 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2014_11_24 077

The following day is equally as dreary and I give painting a miss while fussing over the fact that I will likely have to do some dry brush work as it is taking so long to complete.

On day four of doing not much else except either painting or thinking about painting this landscape it is Done!

STUART RIVER KICKING LEAVES 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas

Stuart River kicking leaves 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas by Canadian landscape painterTerrill Welch 2014_11_26 005

Information about detailed viewing and purchase information is available on my website by clicking the image or HERE.

And so is the story that goes with it which will not be released fully with the painting but seems appropriate to share with you here.

This is another of my mystery paintings in that its realism is mostly a deception. I have included two detail images so you can get a better idea about what is going on.

The first of the poplar trees…

detail 1 Stuart River kicking leaves 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas by Canadian landscape painter Terrill Welch 2014_11_26 005

and this second one of the water…

detail 2 Stuart River kicking leaves 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas by Canadian landscape painterTerrill Welch 2014_11_26 005

Truthfully though, it is the layering all the way back to the yellow ground that gives this painting its vitality.

I suppose it may appear to be a pretty picture but it isn’t to me. Winters are historically harsh in this area. Snow is not far off and a day of kicking leaves means there is a good stockpile of winter wood. The larder is full and the winter vegetables put down. If this was when I was young, it would soon be time to dress in layers knowing I would still be cold and take my 22 rife into my grandfather’s boat along with our little dog Charlie Brown. You see, my grandfather was a trapper. I was his sharpshooter for muskrats. If they were plentiful, we would take a few this way rather than trapping them. I had to line up a bead on the head of the small animal right at the waterline in the moving riverboat. As soon as I shot and gave the nod, the small dog would jump overboard and bring the dead muskrat back to us before it sank. My aim had to be good because if it wasn’t the little dog could get pulled under by the diving animal and drown. This risk was partly due to the fact that Charlie wouldn’t let go and give up easily. This was his favourite job and he was a determined to do it well.

I don’t remember what the muskrat hides were worth a piece once they were skinned, the hides stretched and then shipped to the fur buyers. I do know that my grandfather never really had a regular job for wages very often and trapping and guiding were the family livelihood. This cash bought necessities like flour, sugar, salt, boat motors, pickup trucks, snowmobiles, canned peaches, raisins, honey, nuts, rice, lamp gas and mantels, ammunition, maybe a new axe if it was needed or a skinning knife. Oh the shopping list could also include material to make work shirts, or brassieres or maybe even a blouse or new sheets. But you get the idea.

So kicking leaves was and is a luxury between the tasks necessary to survive another winter. Yes it is beautiful with the last heat of the sun on your back and cool northern breeze on your face. But I can hear my father say – the leaves are not real pretty yet. Next week they will be better. Mom will leave a hint of a smile between her shoulder shrug, squint slightly as if seeing a moose or bear across the water. I will look just in case she has. Then we will all turn and continue back towards the house appearing to be in no hurry but already mentally deciding what needs to be done next.

So there you have it – my understanding of how landscapes are home for me.


What are landscape to you?


P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and readers! May your day be filled with appreciation.


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11 thoughts on “Painting the Canadian landscape as home

  1. Pingback: Two Canadian Landscape Paintings rendered as home | Canadian Contemporary Artist Terrill Welch

  2. I loved your paintings, Terrill, and felt like you took me home with you.
    What landscapes are home to me?
    I was born and raised and spent most of my life under Manitoba’s endless blue sky. Too long ago, I returned home for a visit. I was sitting in a cafe, eating with my relatives when I couldn’t resist the urge to pull out my camera. My younger self roared, What’s so pretty? It’s just home. But my older self was wiser and took the shot — knew the beauty.
    But now, home is also a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean. The sight of the lighthouse stirs my blood and makes my heart sing — even after a short trip to a big island.
    I’m a hayseed nurtured by an ocean breeze. : )

  3. Hi Terrill
    You know your childhood landscape is my landscape. Many of your memories are similar to mine. Today is just such a stark contrast to your beautiful painting that snow you speak of has arrived!
    Your friend,

    • Annerose we always know that eventually it will though recent years has often seen it come a little later. I was watching a film and the story was set in Norway during the winter. They had capture the sound squeaky crunching sound of the footsteps over the frozen packed snow. I swear for a moment the air got cooler and my nostrils tingled 😉 I have almost been away from real winter long enough to miss it – almost 😉

  4. Terrill — I loved the detailed explanation of how landscapes are home for you. That, along with the backstory for the painting itself. And of course the photo of the “face you pulled.” That made me laugh!

    The landscape here in Boise is new and WHOLLY WONDERFUL to Len and I. Considered “high dessert,” it’s a combination of prairie, woodland, and rolling hills that tickle the toes of the Cascade Mountains. Succulent plants thrive in this geographic location. Boise resides in the “Treasure Valley” which is somehow magically protected from severe weather – “everything in moderation” seems to be the local weather’s mantra.

    • Nothing wrong with moderation Laurie. I am going to have to dig up a map and see exactly where you are in relation to my son’s property in the United States. It is high desert as well. I have only been once in midsummer but it was amazing. We would joke that Clint Eastwood was going to ride by on his horse anytime now. Of course the call of the retail hawk didn’t harm this imagining.

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